It’s difficult, if not impossible, to choose just one film as a favourite. But, if I was “made an offer I couldn’t refuse” then I suppose I’d have to pick The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

I was too young to see this film when it first came out in the early 70s, so the first time I saw it must have been on television sometime in the early eighties. I then got a copy of the film on video, and must have watched it about fifty times in the years since!

I’m not sure that I got all the plot subtleties and the subtext when I first saw the film, but who wouldn’t enjoy the transformation of Michael (Al Pacino in his breakthrough role) from a law-abiding war hero to the ruthless head of the Corleone crime syndicate under the paternal gaze of Marlon Brando. Every scene is enthralling, just about every performance in the film fits perfectly, and the musical score (by Nino Rota) is also terrific.

Family is at the heart of this film; a dysfunctional family undoubtedly, but Vito is a loving father who wants the best for his family. He knows that his sons are destined to follow in his footsteps, but he dreams of a better life for Michael as a legitimate politician.

Just to emphasise the theme of family, the film opens with the wedding of Vito’s daughter, and effectively closes with the slaughter of the heads of the rival five crime families against the backdrop of the christening of Michael’s nephew.

The film was not only instrumental in making the wider public aware of the Mafia, but it portrayed organised crime and big business as corrupt bedfellows in a brilliant dissection of the American dream.

There is so much to enjoy in this film that even now I find something new when I watch it again. But only one thing troubles me – I’ve still never seen the film the way it was meant to be seen, in a cinema!

Ian Barton

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